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Coffee: A Dark History


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Wild (The East India Company) has been widely recognized for introducing specialty coffees to Great Britain. Here, he presents a 500-year history of the much-loved drink, drawing on science, politics, anthropology, and alchemy before concluding that today's large companies, with their demand for lower prices, have put coffee farmers out of business and thousands of workers out of jobs in Africa and Central America. Wild's explanation of how major corporations have taken over the coffee industry, supported by public information direct from the coffee distributors themselves, will inspire readers to comtemplate their contribution to this global situation. The only comparison would be Stewart Lee Allen's The Devil's Cup, which describes similar facts but from the first person. With its political and historical perspectives, this book reads more like a textbook. Recommended for academic libraries; an optional purchase for others.-Jennifer A. Wickes,, Pine Beach, NJ Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

While coffee historian Wild brings enthusiasm to this tome on the 500-year history of the caffeinated bean, it doesn't match the simple passion with which coffee lovers enjoy their morning java. (In fairness to the author, how could it?) Wild (The East India Company) traces the bean as it makes its way from Africa to the Middle East (it was once known as the "wine of Araby") to the West, and the rise in cafe culture across Europe and eventually the New World, where, thanks to the Boston Tea Party, coffee surpassed tea as the patriotic drink of choice for a fledging nation. But Wild repeatedly reminds readers that for all the pleasure a cup of coffee brings to its drinker, the history of this beguiling brew is indeed dark. As long as there has been coffee, Wild asserts, there have been colonial powers-and now corporations-to exploit the workers that grow it. While this is a fascinating story that combines history with anthropology, too often the writing is buried under the heartless statistics of economic formulations. However, the work does provide caffeine junkies with intriguing reading material next time they find themselves waiting in line to order their grande vanilla latte. Illus. (June) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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